rise of ‘treat culture’ among millennials and gen z
A story as old as time or at the very least, as old as capitalism is the anticipation of a treat. It’s the game of deferred gratification: after eating broccoli, you can have curly fries; after crying over your maths homework, you can watch TV; after work, you can have fun; and perhaps you can squeeze in a couple of years of retirement before you hit the wall. Nowadays, in the digital age, young adults who want to ease the stress of today’s economic climate frequently refer to the idea of treating themselves.
This is due to the fact that growing up no longer seems to hold the promise of agency and purpose that it once did. Without having the added benefits of being able to afford a house, much less a comfortable life or even a world free from the chaos of climate change, political extremism, and a pandemic, millennials and older Gen Zers are doing the unfun adult things like working. Why not treat yourself to something sweet perhaps some ice cream, a houseplant, or even a Garfield phone to sooth the sting of reality?
Gen Z and millennials are coping with their challenging economic reality in this way. Life is short, as younger generations have learned after missing several crucial years due to a locked-down pandemic world. “Buy the treat and stop acting like it’s a bad thing.”
They’ve used Twitter and TikTok to discuss how, despite having little money saved, buying a treat gets them through the day. They claim that minor indulgences help them feel in control of their lives and don’t significantly reduce the high cost of living. Treats are also just enjoyable.
Being kind to oneself isn’t a new or generational phenomenon, but Liat, a 27-year-old nonprofit worker, believes it has a special appeal for many people her age. She requested that her last name be removed in order to lessen the size of her online footprint, despite the fact that her name is already sufficiently Googleable.
Treat culture, according to her, is connected to burnout, hot girl walks, and being a young person in an imperial decline. Treats assist us in escaping the economy.
Liat says that the “girl boss” saying that is on mugs, shirts and other wine mom merchandise probably came from the “Treat Yo Self” meme from the NBC show Parks and Recreation. In a time when many employees are unhappy, the word has come to mean a much-needed cure for existentialism in the workplace and in life in general.
Liat says our generation is accepting that nothing is guaranteed like it was for our parents.This includes being able to buy our own homes, being paid a living wage, and living on a planet that is safe to live on. She also says that turning to treats is a natural way for young adults to deal with worries about money and general stress. California is on fire, Social Security will run out of money before we can get it, and the cost of housing, health care, and education is going through the roof.
Kiana Davis’s clothing store, Kiki The Brand, shows that the treat economy is alive and well.According to the 26-year-old, she releases new pieces once or twice a month. Her customers clamour for this drop style, which she explains to News Sources means they believe they deserve the indulgence of a limited item. Because that is how I live my life, I really love that.
As long as it makes me happy, I don’t mind spending the money. It might cost $5 or $100. Anytime I feel like I deserve a treat, regardless of whether I had a heavy workload or a laid-back day, Davis says. Typically, she drinks Pink Lady Kombucha from Health-Ade to get her daily dose of happiness because it is both affordable and healthy.
Her below-the-fold viral tweet, which has 2,500 supporters, explains as much. Young women, in particular, are beginning to fight against stigma surrounding mental illness.
However, according to Douglas A. Boneparth, a financial advisor who focuses on HENRYs, or “high-earning but not rich yet” clients, who earn high salaries but lack the necessary savings to be classified as truly wealthy, there isn’t a true generational trend on the rise. But he pointed out that credit card debt is at an all-time high. According to him, “the American consumer is unstoppable,” adding that the idea of treat culture can have an anti-millennial slan.
In the end, a treat doesn’t really matter that much if you’re in control of your spending, according to Boneparth.
Given the brevity of life, we made the decision to acquire that exceptionally charming dress.
If you ask Mark Sabino, a 26-year-old product and ad designer from New York who sells jewerly and accessories online, the pandemic may have sparked this more lax attitude towards spending. He explains that for many people, thinking about the long term was difficult due to quarantine and economic uncertainty. Purchases started to focus more on solving the immediate. How can I make myself feel better now, even for a moment? he asks.
Davis concurs, stating that quarantine demonstrated how fleeting life is. We made the decision to purchase the incredibly adorable dress that quickly became popular on Twitter, purchase a day pass, get a massage, eat the A5 wagyu with the lobster tail on the side, and travel.
A Diet Coke can be the difference between a truly boring day and an alright one, giving one control over their money and quality of life. Even before the pandemic, according to Liat, she never packed her own lunch, preferring to look forward to the escape from an exploitative and low-paying job.
Such a mindset has grown more pronounced as a result of some employees losing the flexible schedule they had been enjoying for the past few years due to a wave of return-to-office mandates. Gen Z’s very similar love of snacking reveals a push for freedom in seeking a treat to change up your routine. “It’s almost like your Sisyphean existential rebellion via artisanal ginger ale,” says Sabino, “if you’re feeling like you’ve been stuck in a routine or a rut. Whether it’s trying something new you wouldn’t have before, or splurging on the “deluxe” version of a product.“
A small treat can go a long way.
In his essay “Everyone Needs to Grow Up” for the British lifestyles magazine Dazed, journalist James Greig noted a larger phenomenon: that young adults are becoming more and more infantilized as a result of the adulthood that the current economy denies them. Treat culture brings to mind this larger phenomenon. He claims that it has a paralyzing effect. Sabino concurs, stating that one aspect of the situation is the radical change in our conception of what an adult is, and it is clear that many adults in positions of authority have failed younger generations. For its naive and playful nature, Davis says she adores the word “treat” and sees it as a somewhat “healing” way to connect with her inner child.
Thorstein Veblen, a socialist economist, hypothesised in 1899 that every consumer act in a market economy is meant to signify a particular status. Young millennials and members of Generation Z are indicating that they’re over it or that they require a sugar rush to get through the day by indulging in treats. Because it’s not really a trend at all but rather a sign of greater disenchantment, if not discontent, it’s an internet trend with a long shelf life.
Boneparth says that Treat culture is probably more of a result of late-stage capitalism than the other way around. He also says that younger generations tend to be sceptical of the financial system, and this may be even more true after recent bank runs. He goes on to say that, like everyone else, they must play the game of capitalism in order to stay alive.
Bone part points out that many of the young people he works with still plan for the future. He gives the example of those who are trying to save money for the long term. He goes on to say, “I see a lot of people who are very driven and work hard.” Everyone has a hard time getting ahead. He says, “I don’t really buy into the idea that whole generations of young people are just fed up,” but he also doesn’t deny that there are a lot of people who feel like they can’t win. He points to the constant rise in housing costs as a major source of stress.
According to Sabino, the term “treat culture” itself acknowledges the helplessness of younger generations in the face of macroeconomic trends.